Josh Rosenthal
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Josh Rosenthal

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States | SELF

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States | SELF
Band Americana Folk


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"Happiness pushes Rosenthal from punk music"

Josh Rosenthal has found his comfort level, something that did not seem possible as a younger musician in Lubbock.
The journey embarked upon by Rosenthal found him airing his angst in punk rock and, at one point, even turning his back on music entirely.

Now happily married and based in Utah, Rosenthal, 25, is creating incredibly good songs. Labels do not come easily, but he said even followers of contemporary Christian music embrace his music "only because of the authenticity."
That said, he still worries about reactions to a stronger song from his "Renaissance" album, called "Gotta Get Out."
The song no doubt works as a theme for any young people feeling suffocated or isolated within their hometowns, and only those who knew Rosenthal realized Lubbock was the inspiration for the writing.
Looking back, Rosenthal said, "That song is just a snapshot of a moment in my life; it never was my philosophy of Lubbock. At the time, I was sad and depressed and I was hurting, and that's the song that came out.
"Every show where I play that, I get a comment from someone it resonates with."
But the musician has been stunned by continuing negative feedback.
He said, "For every person who likes Gotta Get Out,' there is still someone in Lubbock who was offended. A lot of people didn't see the art in it; they just took it at face value. They thought it was about themselves, rather than about a person in their hometown expressing misplaced anger. And I regret that."
Still, Rosenthal's popularity has continued to grow, and a large turnout is expected for his concert Tuesday at Turning Point Community Church.
Guitarist Benjamin Robie, familiar with Rosenthal's music, said, "I think Josh is trying to say everything he had wanted to say while growing up, but did not have the courage or knowledge of how to say it.
"At this point in his life, he now knows what it's like to go through the processes of healing and reconciliation, forgiveness and growth."
Fellow musician Josh Wilson said, "Josh (Rosenthal) is a great communicator because he is honest. He writes from personal experience, and he's not afraid to tackle the hard topics. That's why people relate to him. He sings about real life, not an idealistic, candy-coated version of reality.
"People crave honesty and, in that area, Josh delivers."
Rosenthal was 11 when his family moved from Fort Worth to Lubbock. His dad, psychologist David B. Rosenthal, had accepted a new job.
Josh Rosenthal said, "In Lubbock, I felt like I was a whole different person. I did my best at being social, but I had nothing in common with people at my school. ... At one point, I had even begun cross-stitching to find something to do."
His father was aware that Josh felt alienated for a time. So he gave him a guitar.
Rosenthal, who now calls his music a cross between John Mayer and Willie Nelson, said, "I literally played it until my fingers bled because I didn't have any friends at the time. I learned every Green Day song. I played in a lot of punk bands through high school. I was upset, a little mad; punk rock was a good outlet for my anger."
He met musicians Zak White and Michael Scott in punk rock chat rooms on America OnLine, and eventually they played as The Eddie Munsters.
Rosenthal later toured with a punk group called Crash Test Pete. Then he burned out.
"One day, I just could not take it. Everything imploded," he said.
He stopped playing music.
"I got rid of all my gear except my first guitar," he said.
When Rosenthal enrolled at South Plains College in Levelland, he took guitar classes only because he assumed they would be easy. Soon afterward, he joined a church group taking a trip to Salt Lake City.
He fell in love with the Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church, whose mission, he said, is "helping Salt Lake discover what it means to live by grace."
Rosenthal jokes that he switched from punk rock "to sissy rock, or soft rock."
He said, "I enjoyed leading workshops, and I thought of it as taking a year off."
His life and his music changed. Rosenthal has recorded five albums, his latest being the five-song "Narratives: A Christmas Album." He's made a home in Salt Lake City. He is married, completing studies at the University of Utah for a degree in public relations and still finds time to tour and play 100 concerts each year.
He works primarily in Utah, Colorado and Idaho and plays 80 percent of his gigs with a full band. He wants to be "part of a flagship company, either a record label or a music marketing machine," by age 29 or 30.
Collaborations with Wilson, he said, generally find Rosenthal providing melody and Wilson writing lyrics.
That said, Rosenthal is gaining confidence as a lyricist.
Justin Hefner, a graduate student at Texas State University, is one of Rosenthal's oldest friends. He recalled, "Most of our friends are musically gifted, but Josh could always blow us out of the water. He would always come around with a new, better sound."
Hefner added, "Josh is always improving as a musician and a writer. He is a purist when it comes to music. He believes in painting the canvas anew every time he sits down to write."
Rosenthal remains comfortable playing at church settings, pointing out that he senses a welcome "from the people, not necessarily the leadership.
"Outside of the South or Bible Belt, there are no issues. Sometimes in the South, and it depends on the region, I may not fit the cookie cutter mold."
The music, however, is beautifully played. His voice consistently expresses messages or themes honestly. Therein lies the growing appeal.
Carol Lim, a longtime fan and University of Utah associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, catches more than a half dozen of Rosenthal's concerts each year.
She said, "Have you ever heard someone sing a song that made you forget to breathe? Some people in the pews were crying. ... His lyrics seem to have universal truths, even the nonreligious songs. You feel like he's inside your head, and you wonder how he got there." - Lubbock Avalanche Journal - December 2008

"It takes villages"

I recommend that besides seeing Hot Buttered Rum, you should check out Josh Rosenthal. The Salt Lake City resident is releasing four albums this fall on four different dates (Aug. 18, Sept. 15, Oct. 13 and Nov. 27). The four albums are called the Villages Suite. In a press release, he said: "Each album captures a different aspect of the Villages concept. Sometimes we try to live life without help from our neighbors, sometimes we;re so wrapped up with others that we forget how to take care of ourselves and still other times we find one friend to help us through life. The ideal balance is a conglomeration of all of these."
- Salt Lake Tribune - David Burger - (Aug 2009)


Cordillera - 2006

Renaissance - 2008
Narratives - 2008

Overture - 2009
Even the Strongest Hero - 2009
Lonely Together - 2009
For a Day - 2009



(See videos of Josh Rosenthal at

Hawaiian Lap Steele guitar or record an album? It’s still not an easy answer for me. Back in 2004 I saved $1,000 to put toward that guitar, but in a moment of weakness I thought “why don’t I spend money on something that will make me some money?” Drawing everything from savings, I wrote and recorded “Inspired by Tuesday”. It taught me that I could actually create something people would enjoy.

The birth of that album, at the time, meant no more college, no more responsibilities and no more 1984 Mercury Grand Marquis. I was young. My career didn’t skyrocket, in fact that year taught me of my need for college, responsibility and old beat-up cars. Sales were just good enough to show me that I was on to something, but at that time I had little to say. I didn’t know how to make sense of all I had experienced by that time in my life. I needed to spend more time developing what my message as an artist would be.

A few years later, I enrolled at the University of Utah and eventually graduated with a degree in Strategic Communication. The one thing I believed would interfere with my music career proved to the thing that advanced it – a diploma. I learned about discipline and how to finish well.

In high school, I had a list of three professions I admired: pastor, surgeon or musician. I experimented in a bit of each. Well, I’ve never been a surgeon, but I worked in an intensive care unit near surgeons. I stayed long enough to realize I didn’t want the hours surgeons worked. One doctor I talked to said his wife asked him to work less hours because their family was falling apart. He chose to keep his hours at the hospital, which left me turned off to the path of a surgeon.

I left Texas for Utah where I worked with high school students and led worship at two churches for a total of five years. It was good while it lasted, but I was eager to see that chapter pass. Finally, I landed as a singer/songwriter because I felt like it was a combination of all three professions I admired. I can write songs and use them as instruments of healing in the lives of the people I love.

I wrote the albums for my latest creation, the Villages Suite, to explore some trends I see in my community. Americans tend to be lonely people. We have more money than the rest of the world and more entertainment, yet statistically we have less meaningful relationships. The Villages Suite explores our loneliness and gives direction toward authentic community.

I believe melodies cut to the heart faster than words. Melody is a vehicle for healing words to penetrate someone’s mind. Maybe the words are meant to change their mind. Maybe they’re meant to open it to healing. Or maybe they’re meant to bring a needed escape. Regardless, music delivers truth like a preacher and healing like a surgeon.

To this day, each album comes with the question “Hawaiian Lap Steele or new album?” Still no lap steel and, with the release of four albums in 2009, one won’t be coming soon.